UNITED STATES—In 1935, just a few days shy of his 43rd birthday, the Kingfish Willy Long was assassinated in the 34-story state capital that he had built by a medical doctor whose family had been feuding with Long’s machine. His last words were: ‘Lord, don’t let me die,” Willy whispered. ”I have so much to do.”

We all breathed a vast sigh of relief when Willy Long expired his last, after whispering a barely audible, “I have so much to do,” after “Lord don’t let me die,” so barely audible the some of us doubted that he had said those words, but rather, they were the fabrication of one of Willy’s press agents. The very fact that we would collectively sigh, in acknowledgement of a Herculean weariness was confirmation that we in Louisiana, and others of us sensitive to autocracy, had endured the season of a strongman, an autocrat, a camera hog, and unpredictable and lovable character—those between those who loved and loathed the demagogue, created at the ballot box—did not meet or see eye to eye, but the tears that were shed at Willy’s passing were sincerely shed, even among virulent detractors, and could have watered plants. And they bought up all the kitschy souvenirs, like a commemorative ashtray in the depths of a deep depression. Yes, indeed.

The fortune teller Cassandra under the grim stairwell in the French Quarter knew it all. The last time she saw Willy, Willy said, “I’m sick sick sick of that goddamn dialog with the clock. It starts the moment I awake and keeps up the whole live-long day.”

Cassandra said in her Germanic accents, “Don’t fool with me baby. Everybody who knows you, Willy, know you never sleep a wink. You can go three days with whisky and dames.”

Willy was a Virgo, Cassandra aptly pointed out. In the racism of the zodiac, Virgo is one of the most maligned and underestimated signs which, in the end is devoted to selfless service, which is both a form of divine vocation and indentured servitude. Long before the shooting happened (after the roaring 20s sputtered and fell from the sky) Willy Long had stirred up the pot. Many people, god-fearing folk sat in their living rooms and talked about ways they would kill Willy long, they would become Brutus for a moment, and cleanse society of this impish scourge.

You know what Cassandra, the tarot reader said, Willy, there are hearts purer than gold, and that is your heart, Willy, despite your phalanx of armed guards that you take with you wherever you go. You’ve got a pure hear, and you’ve got to do dirty work to make it happen. It’s progressive if you like it and populist if you revile it. I’ll let you in on a secret (Cassandra said) if more people know they might choose public service: assassination is painless. The God that give breath to say goodbye anesthetizes the corrupt flesh at the last.

Willy was not pleased with what he had heard. He’d had a few to drinks before he ceded to curiosity and paid Cassandra a visit. He stormed off.

To be continued…

Graydon Miller is the Wizard of Fiction.

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Hollywood humorist Grady grew up in the heart of Steinbeck Country on the Central California coast. More Bombeck than Steinbeck, Grady Miller has been compared to T.C. Boyle, Joel Stein, and Voltaire. He briefly attended Columbia University in New York and came to Los Angeles to study filmmaking, but discovered literature instead, in T.C. Boyle’s fiction writing workshop at USC. In addition to A Very Grady Christmas, he has written the humorous diet book, Lighten Up Now: The Grady Diet and the popular humor collection, Late Bloomer (both on Amazon) and its follow-up, Later Bloomer: Tales from Darkest Hollywood. (https://amzn.to/3bGBLB8) His humor column, Miller Time, appears weekly in The Canyon News (www.canyon-news.com)